Credit: Yee-Liu Williams

Life on-the-ground - Rough sleeping

Almost like a well-rehearsed circus act, these men and women get on and off the various lines of the London Underground. Most are actually well-dressed and it is difficult to differentiate between the usual commuter on the way to work, school or taking in the sights. What gives them away is the embarrassing routine that follows and if you look closely at the raggedy shoe that threatens to give up its sole. The plea usually begins…’I am sorry to disturb you. I don’t mean to alarm you, but I am a bit down on my luck…’

Very few people raise a brow or change focus from the nothingness that they do to waste time on the underground. Have commuters become numb to the regular appeal of the homeless, jobless and penniless nomads of the underground? Every day I pass the many destitute people of the Underground and feel a twinge of sorrow for them.

Tonight I met ‘Bo’ (very cute dog) and his best friend (a man was so proud of his dog he failed to mention his own name). The two best friends rough sleep on the Underground.

Many rough sleepers have dogs with them as companions. According to experts many people would rather stay on the streets than give up their beloved dog.

Bo’s master ( who I will call Matt for this post) explained that they have lived on the street for over five years. He described that it all went downhill after his mother (who he lived with) died of throat cancer.

‘Bo’ is his only friend and the two appear to have an inseparable bond. Despite the wretched cold, ‘Bo’ seemed to be unaware — in a state of unperturbed euphoria — because of the affection from his Matt.

I turned to leave but felt the need to ask him where he and ‘Bo’ lived. ‘We sneak in before the building closes and sleep behind the grey crate’, pointing way off in the distance.

I dropped some coins into his empty Styrofoam cup and decided that I better be on my way. Matt extended his hand to me in gratitude as I turned to leave — which I reciprocated.

As I walked back to my apartment I wondered the last time Matt had a decent conversation with someone other than faithful ‘Bo’.

Approximately 2,744 people are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night in the UK. This number is up 14% from the estimated number of rough sleepers in 2013. I did some research and came across a service called Street Link, which works in collaboration with local authorities in the UK to alert them about rough sleepers. The Public can use the website or app to alert local authorities about rough sleeping so that they can be connected to local services. Link: http://www.streetlink.org.uk/tell-us-about-a-rough-sleeper. Domestic abuse, job loss, relationship breakdown, even bereavement can push people to live on the street. Rough sleepers are still human.

Extra:

Interesting article that I came across. Your views welcomed.

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